Physician Health

Millennial physicians sound off on state of medicine today

Robert Nagler Miller , Contributing News Writer

Administrative burdens, career aspirations, the role of technology and work-life balance are just a few of the topics that 200 physicians age 35 and younger were asked to weigh in on recently. The survey of physicians providing at least 20 hours a week of direct patient care found that 56 percent report unhappiness with the current state of medicine and 34 percent say that the reality of practicing medicine is worse than they had expected. Yet 83 percent are committed to their medical careers and many harbor ambitions for how they can shape medicine over the course of their working lives.

These findings come from a survey the AMA developed and fielded with M3 Global Research, an online physician panel. The research reveals that tasks that take younger physicians away from patient care contribute to dissatisfaction among those who say that their expectations of a physician’s life do not always comport with the day-to-day grind of their work.

Some of young physicians’ concerns relate to excessive paperwork, administrative burdens, electronic health records (EHR) issues, bureaucratic issues, government regulations, medical school loan debt and frustrations with low payment.

Generational differences

While there were similarities in younger and older physicians’ views of medical practices, there appeared to be some striking generational differences. For example, nearly four out of five millennials surveyed said that they eventually hoped to seek out related fields beyond patient care, potentially in addition to their full-time work. High among the career aspirations of young physicians—who could pick more one option on the survey—are entrepreneurial endeavors (42 percent), health care consultant (41 percent), hospital/health system executive (34 percent) and academic researcher (19 percent).

While the results of the survey corroborate other research indicating that physicians of all generations are disenchanted with many aspects of their profession, younger physicians are not scrambling to leave medicine. Eighty-three percent of the millennial physicians said they were either very likely or extremely likely to continue practicing as physicians, despite the hurdles they face. Another 12 percent reported that they were somewhat likely to remain in the field.

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Here are some other salient findings from the survey.

Younger physicians are tech-savvy. Related to their facility with the latest forms of technology is their recognition of the importance of EHRs, with 62 percent citing their reliance on EHRs as important in providing quality patient care. Millennial physicians also consider themselves to be more data-driven than their older counterparts.

“We are more likely to emphasize evidence-based medicine as opposed to expert opinion and experience,” said one survey respondent. “We are better at consuming massive amounts of information to stay up-to-date,” said another.

Millennial physicians make work-life balance a priority. Ninety-two percent said that it is important to strike a balance between work and personal and family responsibilities, but only 65 percent felt that they have achieved it at this point in their careers.

“We are focused on maintaining our identities and relationships outside of work, and many older physicians sacrificed having a life to be good doctors,” one survey respondent opined.

Finances factor in career choices. Considerations such as medical school loan repayments, lack of overhead, and the desire for a steady and reliable source of income contribute substantially to younger physicians’ work paths. Eighty percent reported that they were employees and only 15 percent said they were full or part owners of medical practices.

“I am in a great deal of debt from medical school,” said one respondent, adding that it would be “difficult to start my own practice, which may require additional business loans and an uncertain income.”

Advocacy matters. Advocating on behalf of physicians and their patients is an important role that the AMA can play in younger physicians’ lives, said the millennials. “Advocate for physicians regarding liability, reimbursement and national image,” said one respondent, whose sentiments were repeated by many others.